As seen from Earth, galaxies can appear in any number of orientations, from face on, with spiral arms on glorious display, to edge on, with the arms hidden from view behind a flattened plane of stars and dust. While not as spectacular, perhaps, edge-on views provide key insights into galactic structure.
The Hubble Space Telescope captures a snapshot of a collision between two galaxies 350 million light years away in the constellation Cetus, giving astronomers a ringside seat to a slow-motion merger that eventually will result in a single combined galaxy. Gravitational interactions are distorting the barred spirals, ripping away stars and dust.
The central supermassive black hole of a recently discovered galaxy called SAGE0536AGN is far larger than should be possible, according to current theories of galactic evolution. The galaxy was found by accident with NASA’s Spitzer space telescope and is thought to be at least 9 billion years old. Time will tell whether SAGE0536AGN really is an oddball, or simply the first in a new class of galaxies.